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ISO 14001 Standard Explained

The ISO 14001 Standard – An Explanation of the standard, “Environmental Management Systems”.

The International Standards Organisation (ISO) specifies requirements for an effective environmental management system. The ISO 14001 Standard provides a framework for the organisation to set practical environmental goals they can achieve. To quote the ISO directly…

“ISO 14001 is an internationally agreed standard that sets out the requirements for an environmental management system. It helps organisations improve their environmental performance through more efficient use of resources and reduction of waste, gaining a competitive advantage and the trust of  stakeholders.” ISO 14001:2015 :: Environmental management systems — Requirements with guidance for use.

This Standard also enables organisations to gain certification on the basis of integration with other ISO Standards. In particular, ISO 14001 integrates well with the ISO 9001 – Quality Management Standard. Thus, the two standards form an effective management ‘whole’. This enables improved management of the organisation overall. At the same time, it takes into account the environmental aspirations of the organisation. Consequently, the organisation is able to satisfy environmental goals without separate, disparate systems.

Environmental management?

In a modern social and business context, managing the environmental impact of an organisation makes sense. Environment has a sensitive public profile. It also has a big cost for most organisations, more so the bigger the business. As a result, the modern business needs to manage its impact and the public perception that goes with it. Balanced against that need, is the general organisation of the business processes. Particularly, those that impact the environment. So, it makes sense to integrate the internal process management and the external environmental impacts as part of the same management process.

Clearly, this is not going to happen overnight. Further, implementation should start at a point from which continual improvements occur over time. While the ISO 14001 Standard is suitable for organizations of all types and size, it requires a wide scope of considerations. Most importantly, the Standard requires organisations to consider all environmental issues affected by its operations. A successful project would look at the whole range of environmental systems. For example, the following are the main starting points…

  • Air pollution,
  • water and sewage impact,
  • waste management,
  • environmental contamination,
  • energy minimisation
  • waste,
  • climate change mitigation,
  • resource use,
  • logistics (transport efficiency),
  • and operational efficiency in the environment.

Many of these environmental impact points provide the opportunity for cost savings in the long run. Most of them also offer improved management effectiveness too since, these interfaces with the environment are key points of business control.

The ISO 14001 Standard is far reaching inside and outside the business

ISO Management Standards ensure that the process of management works through clearly defined, documented and monitored systems. For such systems to work they need to penetrate all aspects of the organisation from strategic planning through to process workflow. So, everyone needs training and to become engaged with the changes. Of course, one of the most important aspects of these management systems is the need to continuously improve and move the systems forward toward pre-set goals. Consequently, leadership right through the organisation needs to be strongly committed to the management system, as well as the environmental initiatives. The latter may be at the interface between organisation and environment, but often lie outside the organisations’ direct domain. Hence, the leadership may need to become aware of the wider horizons that decisions must additionally encompass.

Business payback

Clearly, there are costs and impacts that come with a wider, more “holistic” approach to the environment. So, what is the payback? CHARTER4 have found that there are quite a few business benefits. Broadly, these are…

  • Regulatory and statutory compliance.
  • Increased leadership commitment and engagement with environmental and public concerns.
  • Greater employee engagement.
  • Improved public and stakeholder reputation.
  • Better marketing profile, and public visibility,
  • Greater public confidence in the organisation and less public boycott concerns.
  • The achievement of strategic business goals in environmental management.
  • Competitive advantage in markets affected by environmental issues.
  • Better relations with suppliers.
  • Increased confidence by customers upstream in the supply chain.
  • Improved environmental performance and possibly environmental efficiencies.
  • Potential cost savings on waste and energy.

Practically, not all these benefits will come at once. Of course, some may not apply. However, there is plenty of scope for using the ISO 14001 Standard to improve your business and its overall standing.

CHARTER4 have many years experience of dealing with ISO projects and ISO 14001 in particular. However, we have a special emphasis in or approach. We have noticed that our clients want to see a payback from the investment in time and money they put into their ISO project. We agree. Our approach is to look at your business with a view to finding ways for you to gain competitive advantage from your project as well as comply to the Standard. If you would like to know more about our unique approach to ISO Projects, please just press one of the buttons below.

Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth… these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women’s empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.
~Ban Ki-moon

The ISO 14001:2015 update

The current version of the ISO 14001 Standard was published in September 2015. Interestingly, the ISO organisation made a number of critical improvements to the standard. One of those was to make it easier to integrate ISO 9001 with ISO 14001, and other standards too. However, in environmental terms, the key improvements were…

  • A greater commitment from the organisation’s leadership.
  • Consequently, a greater prominence for environmental management in the strategic direction of the organisation.
  • The implementation of proactive environmental projects to prevent harm and degradation.
  • Clearer legal and compliance obligation.
  • Emphasis on resource use and climate change mitigation.
  • Reducting the supply chain environmental impact.
  • A focus on product “whole lifecycle” thinking. Also, include environmental impacts from development to end-of-life disposal issues.

The update, while far reaching, gives organisations a greater responsibility for the impact of their products or services. However, this is becoming increasingly important in everyday life and in social and economic situations too. In fact, considering the scope of the ISO 14001 standard, it gives organisations a good opportunity to get in line with globally developing opinion and regulation.

Getting started

The Standard provides organisations with the elements of an effective environmental management system (EMS). The Standard is to support environmental protection and prevent environmental degradation in balance with socio-economic trends and global climate issues. Companies can use the ISO 14001 Standard to better manage their Environmental impact. However, at the same time it is possible to dovetail that improvement with internal operational improvements by integrating with other management standards, like ISO 9001.

Every organisation needs to meet its environmental and legal requirements consistently to survive and flourish long-term. ISO 14001 significantly assists this by:

  • Identifying legal & other compliance obligations.
  • Assessing the impact of Company operations and determining appropriate controls for normal operations and for emergencies and incidents.
  • Identifying and implementing improvements.
  • Monitoring against the Organisation’s environmental targets and aims.
  • Externally checked by Assessors from a Certification Body like BSI or NQA or TUV.

Some Tips

There is a lot to do! So, where do you start? Well, there are a few simple things you can do to get under way. CHARTER4 offers these starting tips…

  1. A critical start point is to engage the organisations’ leadership. They must be on-board as there are significant decision steps and initial resources to consider. Your senior leadership must be fully committed and aware of the issues the project will raise.
  2. Define the organisation’s environmental objectives. This sets the starting point for your aspirations as an organisation. Also, it challenges the whole organisation to review its environmental position. Many organisations find that requires some soul searching. Ultimately, that is a great step forward. That is because it makes the organisation review its perspectives. The latter is often an eye-opener for management.
  3. Assess your current environmental impact. Many companies find this brings a lot of unknowns out of the dark. You may be surprised at the size of your environmental footprint once you start to look at these issues. However, at the same time, you will almost certainly begin to quantify many ways you can make savings and efficiencies. ISO 14001 often reveals many new perspectives for the benefit of the organisation.
  4. Find some outside help. As a part of any management system, the system itself will be  monitored by your own staff. However, it will also have to be externally audited to ensure that you will continue to meet the standard. And, when you go for your certification, you will also be externally assessed. Outside assistance can help point out perspectives you missed and bring experience to help you keep the implementation project focussed and relevant to the ISO 14001 standard’s requirements.

sustaining your business

CHARTER4 has considerable experience with both the ISO 14001 standard and ISO 9001. We recognise that in the current climate, businesses need to adjust. Environmental issues are surfacing in the public, regulatory and economic arenas all the time. Businesses that do not meet these new market conditions will quickly go the way of the dodo.

If extinction of the business is just around the corner, there is a need to adapt. With this in mind, at CHARTER4 we have a refreshing viewpoint. We know you need to meet these pressures. However, we also know there are business pressures too. Our aim is to “Improve your business, rather than just comply”. We recognise that some companies are simply ticking the boxes and moving on. At CHARTER4 we believe that done right, your business will be more robust, more profitable and viewed more favourably by the public.

We would like to hear about your ideas for improving your environmental profile. Please tell us about your niche, we can help you. If you would like to contact us about our approach to the ISO 14001 Standard, please click one of the buttons below.

Certification with Charter 4 – the Business Benefits
  • Improve, rather than just comply.
  • Full service and ongoing support to compliment your resources.
  • Build on your Processes & Systems (no standard templates).
  • Help defining your Best Practice.
  • Certification by independent UKAS accredited Assessors.
  • 100% Success & guaranteed support until Certification.
  • Help to get Government Grant (when available).
  • Flexible support to complement your resources.
CHARTER4 – Partners you with the experience and insight to help you grow using management Standards. We will help you improve your business, rather than just comply with the Standards.
Charter4 - We partner with you to help you grow using management Standards. [Article Name: The Biggest Mistakes with ISO 9001]